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Four Odd Trends Contributing to the Calgary Flames’ Struggle with .500



Calgary Flames

It’s been a strange couple of weeks for the Calgary Flames and their faithful. Painful questions lingered following a 1-4-0 stretch that featured a sole bright spot in Jacob Markstrom stealing a win from 32nd-place Chicago. Consecutive losses to the Leafs, Oilers, Blues, and Blue Jackets stood as evidence that teams both above and below them in the standings could steal out a victory against Ryan Huska’s crew.  

The victory over the Blackhawks was of little positivity given that it required such a strong individual performance to merely keep the Flames from falling to 0-2-0 on the season against what, on paper, should be the worst team in the league. With a shutout from Markstrom and Elias Lindholm’s final goal in a Flames sweater, Calgary just barely managed to pull out a victory over a team that swept the season series (0-2-1) last season.   

Chicago finished last place in 2022-2023 and is currently on pace to repeat. 

In typical Flames fashion, the organization provided a breath of life into the fan base upon returning to play after the All-Star break. First in taking down the second place Boston Bruins in a dominant 4-1 performance. The team followed that up with two more wins against the Devils and Islanders; both teams with records above .500.  

Things were good. Noah Hanifin had moved on to the first power play unit, and the team converted at a 37.5 rate with the extra man on the ice. Jacob Markstrom allowed an average of two goals against per game, posting a .939 save percentage over that time. Not to mention the 6-foot-6 Swede’s two assists during that streak. Jonathan Huberdeau had five points in three games, and newcomer Andrei Kuzmenko scored two goals over that span.  

And then, again, in typical Flames fashion, Mr. Hyde emerged. Losses to 15th place Detroit and 31st place San Jose wiped out any and all positive outlook from the group, once again struggling to stay above a .500 points percentage.  

The tendency to drop games against teams that, in theory, they should beat once again resurfaced and became the topic on social media.  

With that, we come to the question: What are the 2023-2024 Calgary Flames? A team that can beat contenders, but fail to show up against bottom feeders? A team that can beat teams primarily if the opposition takes the matchup lightly?  

Calgary Flames

 (AP Photo/Abbie Parr)

Today, we’ll dig through some records to find an answer. Let’s start by examining how the Calgary Flames perform against teams according to point drop-offs in the standings.  

The Contenders category includes teams further than three points above the nearest Wildcard spot – teams that have all but solidified a playoff position.


Calgary Vs. The NHL 

Vs. Contenders

22 of a possible 40 points
.550 points percentage 

Vancouver: 1-1-0
Boston: 1-1-0
Florida: 1-0-0
Dallas: 2-1-0
New York Rangers: 0-2-0
Colorado: 0-2-0
Winnipeg: 2-0-0
Carolina: 1-0-0
Vegas: 2-0-1
Toronto: 0-1-1


There is a lot to unpack here. Wins over Vancouver and Boston arrived at convenient times in the schedule. Vancouver had finally started to cool down after a torrid 12-3-1 start. Boston stumbled hard after the All-Star break and is 2-3-2 since resuming play.  

There are certainly bright spots. Games against Vegas have been arguably the most entertaining of the season. MacKenzie Weegar’s overtime goal may stand as the highlight of the 2023-2024 campaign. The playoff history between those clubs may partially explain positive records against Winnipeg and Dallas. Those extra games and game prep go a long way in understanding how to find seams in opposing defences and offences.  

Cryptic explanations aside, a .550 points percentage is impressive enough. It may be a lack of preparation, it may be a clearly defined underdog role helping the Flames – we’re likely looking at a combination of both factors.  

The next tier is the muddy middle. A 13-team trench war fighting to glean out five or six playoff positions.


Fighting for a Wildcard

22 of a possible 50 points
0.440 points percentage 

Edmonton: 0-2-0
Philidelphia: 1-1-0
Tampa Bay: 1-0-0
Detroit: 0-2-0
Los Angeles: 0-1-0
St. Louis: 0-2-0
New Jersey: 1-1-0
Nashville: 2-1-0
Minnesota: 1-1-1
New York Islanders: 1-0-1
Seattle: 2-1-0
Washington: 1-0-0
Pittsburgh: 0-1-0  

Well, this is awkward. We’ve identified the source of Calgary’s matchup issues. 10-13-2 against teams in what are defined as “four point games” is brutal. As much as Flames players may refer to losses to bottom feeders as “unacceptable,” a 0.440 points percentage against what should be your standings peers is a clear enough difference maker to justify the Flames sitting at the bottom of this group in points.

Speaking of.  

Finally, we come to the bottom eight teams. The cutoff point follows a severe drop in winning percentage. The Calgary Flames sit slightly above this group with a .509 winning percentage. Excluding Calgary, the drop-off is apparent. Seattle currently runs at .518 and Buffalo sits at the top of the drop at .473.  

Basement Dwellers

14 of a possible 24 points
0.583 points percentage 

Buffalo:  1-0-0
Montreal: 1-0-0
Arizona: 2-0-0
Ottawa: 1-1-0
Columbus: 0-2-0

Anaheim: 1-0-0

San Jose: 0-1-0

Chicago: 1-1-0


You almost want to split this into two categories. The Pretenders and the Zombies. From Buffalo to Montreal is a group that the Flames seemingly show up for. Teams with offensive weapons that need to be prepared for. Games that the Flames will surely lose if they don’t put on their work boots. 

The Zombies? When it comes to the Flames, you have to be wondering what’s in their head going into these matchups. The group handles Anaheim and San Jose well enough, but the roster has serious issues beating Columbus and Chicago going back to the departure of star forwards Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. Bear in mind that these four teams finished in the bottom four last season as well.  

Flames Vs. Bottom Four Teams in Standings Since October 2022  

Columbus: 1-3-0
Anaheim: 4-1-0
San Jose: 4-1-0
Chicago: 1-3-1 

Total: 10-8-1 

Floating barely above .500 over two seasons against a group of teams that have gone 163-320-64. Very much a head-scratcher.  

The term “unacceptable” gets thrown around with those kinds of losses. Most recently, Chris Tanev dropped the term following their late January 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. 

“It’s unacceptable, four straight losses at home when you’re trying to make the playoffs.”  

The term came around a little over a year before that loss when the Flames fell 5-1 to the Chicago Blackhawks. “Obviously, it’s unacceptable.” Said Jonathan Huberdeau on the Flames’ execution that night. hockey betting Calgary would proceed to drop their next meeting with the Blackhawks to a 4-3 tune on April 4. Chicago ended an eight-game losing streak with the win.  

It’s difficult to draw a black-or-white explanation from these odd trends in the Flames’ 2023-2024 record.

The group appears to have the number of some of the better teams in the league, while teams like the Rangers and Avalanche seem to have theirs. A, dare we say, unacceptable 0.440 points percentage against their middle-of-the-standings peers puts them firmly in their proper place in terms of points on the season – proverbially just at the top of the basement stairs. 

We then see a few teams lined up on the basement stairs; teams that the Flames have an encouraging 5-1-0 record against. Followed by a group of four basement dwellers –two of which provide the Flames with four or five back-breaking losses per season. 

All of this leaves us with two short questions.  

Why do these trends exist?  

And when will we see these trends start to fade?  

The first question may require a team of sports psychologists with more inside knowledge than your average proctologist to answer.  

The second question? Only time will tell.